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Pasteurization Protects Consumers and the Industry
In the past, the almond industry experienced two food safety incidents in which raw almonds were recalled. As a result, the industry proactively chose to adopt a mandatory program for treatment of almonds in order to provide the safest and highest quality product possible for consumers.
Will treatment affect almond quality?
The Almond Board of California's (ABC) objective is that treatments must achieve a sufficient level of food safety with no significant degradation of the sensory and quality characteristics of almonds, such as the flavor, color, texture, or skin integrity. Evaluation of technologies includes comparing pre-treatment and post-treatment almonds to ensure that the sensory qualities are not adversely affected. A comprehensive research and evaluation project has been conducted. The results show that there are no significant changes in quality for raw product versus raw-treated product. For more information on sensory and quality evaluation click here.
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella is a type of bacteria found on many raw foods that can be killed by heating or removed by washing. The illness caused by the Salmonella bacteria is called salmonellosis.
How is Salmonella spread?
Salmonella is unavoidably present in the environment. It is primarily spread through the feces of wildlife and domestic animals which may enter an orchard, but is also spread by contaminated water, poor fertilization methods and other agricultural practices.
How is Salmonella prevented?
The presence of pathogens such as Salmonella is not uncommon in an agricultural setting. Food safety measures are needed throughout the growing and production process, including Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices. Testing is also useful in verifying that food safety systems are working. Finally, an appropriate pathogen reduction process (outlined below), in combination with the above practices, can sufficiently reduce any potential contamination.
What is a log reduction?
A log reduction refers to how much bacterial contamination can be reduced during a process such as pasteurizing with heat or chemicals. A simple way to think of “a log” is that it refers to the number of zeros behind the number. A 4-log reduction decreases bacteria by 1 plus four zeros or 10,000 fold. Food industries such as milk and juice must pasteurize their products to achieve 5-log reductions of microorganisms of concern. Other food industries, such as canned food manufacturers require safety measures of up to 12-log reductions. An initial risk assessment for almonds has been completed using a conservative approach in developing the risk model. The industry initially targeted a 5-log reduction, which is FDA’s performance standard. Since the risk assessment demonstrated that a minimum 4-log reduction could provide a similar level of consumer protection compared to 5-log (and with potential for less impact on the sensory/quality attributes of the almonds), the industry determined that it was an appropriate standard for almonds.
What is the Action Plan?
The goal of the Action Plan is to provide assurance that all almonds reaching consumers have undergone a treatment to reduce the potential for pathogen contamination without compromising the quality and flavor consumers expect.
Does the ABC Support Treatment Technology Development?
As part of the Action Plan, the Almond Board of California continues to research potential technologies as well as work with private companies which are also making an effort to further research. To learn more about specific developments, please refer to Technology Development.
Why is the Almond Treatment Program Mandatory?
Won’t all industry members want to adopt food safety practices? Because the almond industry clearly maintains a strong commitment to providing the safest product possible for consumers, a mandatory program is critical to ensuring that procedures are implemented consistently and comprehensively throughout the industry. Consumers, as a result, will have the assurance that California Almonds are the safest, highest quality almonds in the marketplace.
Pasteurization of California Almonds Rule from the Federal Register